WASHINGTON — “The crowd is untrue” said philosopher and dilettante Soren Kierkegaard at some point when he wasn’t fretting over his lost love or scolding the higher-ups of the church of Denmark over their supposed lack of piety. Actually, a thorough search of his works on Amazon.comâ€™s new digital library (and how cool is that?) tells me it’s likely a bastardization of Kierkegaard, who penned many a claustrophobic phrase in his time. But it’s one of those sayings that tend to attach themselves to historical figures who give off the right vibes. Call it in the spirit of Kierkegaard, or something the melancholy Dane wishes he’d have said.
And it’s a thought that’s been nagging at me ever since I landed within spitting distance of our nation’s capital. There’s a party at least every other night around here and, while attendance is rarely mandatory, it’s not entirely a matter of whimsy either. Parties in D.C. are unlike parties as I knew them back in the sticks. There, they were about friends getting together to celebrate something or simply to enjoy the pleasure of each other’s company and to get a little happy. Here, parties are nakedly about advancing interests and, therefore, frequent. If you want to get ahead in the world of politics and policy wonkery, better have that suit pressed and block out a couple evenings a week.
Don’t get me wrong, it can be very amusing to see dedicated social climbers at D.C. set-to’s as they try to glad-hand and be seen with all the important people; or watch hosts fret over whether or not the right guests put in an appearance; or chuckle as misplaced invites turn into outrages. Then again, it can also get old, and that new season of Angel is awfully hard to pass up.
This argument was running through my addled brain last Thursday as I trekked north from the Farragut West Metro, through Dupont Circle, and up into the Adams Morgan district to attend the latest meeting of Washington, D.C. area bloggers at the Rendezvous Lounge. After one wrong turn and about 10 minutes of wandering, I hailed a cab, which, as I told fellow Washington stater Andrew Chamberlain, was worth every penny of the $5 the cabbie gouged out of me.
This wasn’t the kind of D.C. crowd I sometimes dread seeing. I arrived maybe a quarter to eight and the bottom floor of the small club was already crowded with chattering e-diarists. Julian Sanchez wandered around in his purple velvet coat and pants, martini glass in one hand and cigarette in the other, chatting it up with members of the self titled Cato Blog Mafia, including Chamberlain and Cato staff writer Tim Lee. Closer to the bar, the very thin Jim Henley traded jokes and barbs with Radley Balko (of TheAgitator.com) and the American Prospect‘s new guy Matthew Yglesias. Gene Healy (of Cato and the America’s Future Foundation) and Brooke Oberwetter arrived together and made their way to rear of the room.
Me? After a trip to the bar and a few introductions, I was glued to a table at the front of the Rendezvous for most of the night; I even went so far as to have Chamberlain get me a refill. Unlike a certain Dane, I haven’t entirely written off the masses, but I can only take the diminished personal space for so long, and the continual in-migration of bloggers and confused but thirsty clubbers increased the current that I would have had to wade against.
Not that I suffered any social ostracism over my claustrophobia. Several curious bloggers stopped by to ask about the Spectator. I snagged Yglesias as he was rounding the stairs and over cigarettes and pepperoni pizza (yes, a Prospect employee was sighted smoking and eating meat) we talked shop and discussed the outrage du jour, the proposed D.C. smoking ban. We weren’t the only ones at this event concerned about this new experiment in forced clean living: There were fliers on one table, and I listened to several people complain between pulls that this was none of the government’s jackbooted business.
Sentiments like this last one go a long way toward explaining why I like bloggers better than garden variety social climbers. They tend to shoot their mouths off where others go for discretion. Though a few people meekly threw up the “off the record” shield, most were admirably open. Maybe it was because they viewed me as part of the fraternity or maybe they’re more used to expressing themselves publicly, but for a few hours I didn’t feel like I was in D.C. anymore.
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